Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The application of Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM) and other research: lessons for frontline commanders

  • Jelle Groenendaal (a1) and Ira Helsloot (a1)

This article focuses on a thus far insufficiently explored theme within management sciences, specifically the direct supervision of frontline workers, that is, frontline command. Frontline command can be defined as making decisions in the frontline and ensuring that frontline workers carry out these decisions accordingly. Scholarly knowledge on frontline command is still fragmented and the associated implications for frontline commanders have not yet been described or discussed in depth. This contribution aims to make up for that deficiency. For this purpose we brought together existing insights derived from research into Naturalistic Decision Making and other relevant research which we subsequently present using the FADCM model. This model sets out frontline command in five steps, already described in scholarly literature, and provides, per step, recommendations for frontline command. Finally, we provide associated examples derived from the Dutch firefighting practices.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author:
Hide All
AshbyW. R. (1956). An introduction to cybernetics. New York, NY: Wiley & Sons.
AskK., & GranhagP. A. (2005). Motivational sources of confirmation bias in criminal investigations: The need for cognitive closure. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 2(1), 4363.
BaddeleyA. (2003). Working memory: Looking back and looking forward. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 4(10), 829839.
BeachL. R. (1990). Image theory: Decision making in personal and organizational contextsl. Chichester, UK: Wiley.
BeilockS. L., & CarrT. H. (2005). When high-powered people fail working memory and “choking under pressure” in math. Psychological Science, 16(2), 101105.
BrehmerB. (2000). Dynamic decision making in command and control. In C. McCann, & R. Pigeau (Eds.), The human in command (pp. 233248). New York, NY: Kluwer.
BrehmerB. (2005). Micro-worlds and the circular relation between people and their environment. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, 6(1), 7393.
BrehmerB. (2007). Understanding the functions of C2 is the key to progress. The International C2 Journal, 1(1), 211232.
BrugghemansB. H., & MarynissenH. (2013). The process of decision-making in a fast-burning crisis situation: A multiple-sequence approach of decisiveness. International Fire Service Journal of Leadership and Management, 7, 4150.
CampbellD. J. (2012). Leadership in dangerous contexts. The Oxford Handbook of Military Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
CatherwoodD., EdgarG. K., SallisG., MedleyA., & BrookesD. (2012). Fire alarm or false alarm?!: Situation awareness and decision-making “bias” of firefighters in training exercises. International Journal of Emergency Services, 1(2), 135158.
CohenM. S., FreemanJ. T., & WolfS. (1996). Meta-cognition in time stressed decision making: Recognizing, critiquing and correcting. Human Factors, 38, 206219.
ConradC., & PooleM. S. (2011). Strategic organizational communication: In a global economy. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.
CrichtonM. T., LaucheK., & FlinR. (2005). Incident command skills in the management of an oil industry drilling incident: A case study. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 13(3), 116128.
De WoldeA., GroenendaalJ., HelslootI., & SchmidtA. (2013). An explorative study on the effect of ethical leadership on organizational misbehavior in a Dutch Fire Service. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 8(2), 1843.
EndsleyM. R. (1995). Toward a theory of situation awareness in dynamic systems. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 37(1), 3264.
FlinR. H. (1996). Sitting in the hot seat: Leaders and teams for critical incident management. Chichester: Wiley.
FlinR. H., & ArbuthnotK (Eds.). (2005). Incident command: Tales from the hot seat. Aldershot: Ashgate.
ForsterS., & LavieN. (2007). High perceptual load makes everybody equal eliminating individual differences in distractibility with load. Psychological Science, 18(5), 377381.
ForsterS., & LavieN. (2008). Failures to ignore entirely irrelevant distractors: The role of load. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 14(1), 73.
FunkeJ. (2001). Dynamic systems as tools for analysing human judgement. Thinking & Reasoning, 7, 6989.
GroenendaalJ., HelslootI., & ScholtensA. (2013). A critical examination of the assumptions regarding centralized coordination in large-scale emergency situations. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 10(1), 113135.
HannahS. T., Uhl-BienM., AvolioB. J., & CavarrettaF. L. (2009). A framework for examining leadership in extreme contexts. The Leadership Quarterly, 20(6), 897919.
HelslootI. E., OomesR., & WeewerR. (2010). Eindrapport evaluatie van de brand in De Punt op 9 mei 2008 (Evaluation report on the major fire at De Punt, May 9th 2008). Den Haag: Boom Juridische Uitgevers.
HendersonA. C. & PandeyS. K. (2013). Leadership in street-level bureaucracy: An exploratory study of supervisor-worker interactions in emergency medical services. International Review of Public Administration, 18(1), 723.
HogarthR. (2003). Deciding analytically or trusting your intuition? The advantages and disadvantages of analytic and intuitive thought. The Advantages and Disadvantages of Analytic and Intuitive Thought (October 2002). UPF Economics and Business Working Paper, 654, 1–46.
HogarthR. M. (2001). Educating intuition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
JensenE. (2009). Sensemaking in military planning: A methodological study of command teams. Cognition, Technology & Work, 11(2), 103118.
KahnemanD. (2003). A perspective on judgment and choice: Mapping bounded rationality. American Psychologist, 58(9), 697720.
KahnemanD. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. London, UK: Penguin.
KahnemanD., & KleinG. (2009). Conditions for intuitive expertise: A failure to disagree. American Psychologist, 64(6), 515526.
KleinG. (1989). Recognition – Primed decisions. Advances in Man-Machine Systems Research, 5, 4792.
KleinG. (1993). A recognition-primed decision (RPD) model of rapid decision making. In G. A. Klein, J. Orasanu, R. Calderwood, & C. E. Zsambok (Eds.), Decision making in action: Models and methods (pp. 138147). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
KleinG. (1998). Sources of power: How people make decisions. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
KleinG. (2008). Naturalistic decision making. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 50(3), 456460.
KleinG. (2009). Streetlights and shadows: Searching for the keys to adaptive decision making. London, England: The MIT Press.
KleinG., CalderwoodR., & Clinton-CiroccoA. (1986). Rapid decision making on the fireground. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 30th Annual Meeting, vol. 1, (pp. 576–580), Norwood, NJ, Ablex.
KoschmannM. A. (2013). The communicative constitution of collective identity in interorganizational collaboration. Management Communication Quarterly, 27(1), 6189.
LiW. C., LiL. W., HarrisD., & HsuY. L. (2014). The application of aeronautical decision-making support systems for improving pilots’ performance in flight operations. Journal of Aeronautics, Astronautics and Aviation, 46(2), 114123.
LibermanN., TropeY., & StephanE. (2007). Psychological distance. Social Psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles, 2, 353383.
LipskyM. (1980). Street level bureaucrats. Nova York: Russel Sage.
LipshitzR., KleinG., & CarrollJ. S. (2006). Introduction to the special issue. Naturalistic decision making and organizational decision making: Exploring the intersections. Organization Studies, 27(7), 917923.
LipshitzR., KleinG., OrasanuJ., & SalasE. (2001). Taking stock of naturalistic decision making. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 14(5), 331352.
MamedeS., SchmidtH. G., RikersR. M., CustersE. J., SplinterT. A., & van SaaseJ. L. (2010). Conscious thought beats deliberation without attention in diagnostic decision-making: At least when you are an expert. Psychological Research, 74(6), 586592.
MarynissenH. (2013). Waarom communicatie niet werkt? (Why communication does not work). Ad Rem, 4, 810.
Maynard-MoodyS. W. & MushenoM. C. (2003). Cops, teachers, counselors: Stories from the front lines of public service. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.
McLennanJ., HolgateA., OmodeiM. M., & WearingA. J. (2003). Good, poor, and disastrous small-unit command: lessons from the fireground. 39th IAMPS, Brussels.
McLennanJ., HolgateA. M., OmodeiM. M., & WearingA. J. (2006). Decision making effectiveness in wildfire incident management teams. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 14(1), 2737.
MeijG. (2004). Sticking to plans: Capacity limitation or decision-making bias?. Dissertation. University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Amsterdam.
MendoncaD. J., & WallaceW. A. (2007). A cognitive model of improvisation in emergency management. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Part A: Systems and Humans, 37(4), 547561.
MintzbergH. (2009). Managing. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
MontgomeryH. E., LipshitzR. E., & BrehmerB. E. (2005). How professionals make decisions. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
MorganG. (1982). Cybernetics and organization theory: Epistemology or technique? Human Relations, 35(7), 521537.
Netherlands Institute for Safety (2011). Onderzoek naar het brandweeroptreden bij de brand in Parkeergarage De Appelaar (Investigation on the fire operation during the major fire at the Appelaar underground parking). Arnhem: Nederlands Instituut Fysieke Veiligheid.
OmodeiM. M., McLennanJ., ElliottG. C., WearingA. J., & ClancyJ. M. (2005). A bias toward overuse of resources in naturalistic decision-making settings. In H. Montgomery, R. Lipshitz, & B. Brehmer (Eds.), How professionals make decisions. Oxford: Routledge.
OrasanuJ., & MartinL. (1998). Errors in aviation decision making: A factor in accidents and incidents. In 2nd Workshop on Human Error, Safety, and System Development, (pp. 100–107), Seattle, Washington, USA.
The Public Order and Safety Inspectorate (2011). Brand Chemie-Pack Moerdijk. Een onderzoek naar de bestrijding van (de effecten van) het grootschalig incident (Investigation on the fire operation during the major fire at Chemie-Pack, Moerdijk). Den Haag: Inspectie Openbare Orde en Veiligheid.
RasmussenJ. (1982). Human errors. A taxonomy for describing human malfunction in industrial installations. Journal of Occupational Accidents, 4(2), 311333.
ReesG., FrackowiakR., & FrithC. (1997). Two modulatory effects of attention that mediate object categorization in human cortex. Science, 275(5301), 835838.
RittelH. W., & WebberM. M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, 4(2), 155169.
ScholtensA., & DrentP. B. G. (2004). Brand in de Koningkerk te Haarlem. Den Haag: Inspectie Openbare Orde en Veiligheid.
ShannonC. E., & WeaverW. (1949). The mathematical theory of communication. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
ShattuckL. C. L. G., & WoodsD. D. (2000). Communication of intent in military command and control systems. In C. McCann, & R. Pigeau (Eds.), The Human in Command (pp. 279291). New York: Springer.
SimonH. A. (1973). The structure of ill-structured problems. Artificial Intelligence, 4(3), 181201.
SimonH. A. (1992). What is an “explanation” of behavior? Psychological Science, 3(3), 150161.
StanovichK. E. & WestR. F. (2000). Advancing the rationality debate. Behavioral and brain sciences, 23(5), 701717.
TissingtonP. (2004). Command decisions. Fire Enginering Journal, 2004, 4244.
TropeY., & LibermanN. (2010). Construal-level theory of psychological distance. Psychological Review, 117(2), 440.
Van CreveldM. (1985). Command in war. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
WeickK. (1995). Sensemaking. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
WeickK. E. (1988). Enacted sensemaking in crisis situations [1]. Journal of Management Studies, 25(4), 305317.
WeickK. E. (1993). The collapse of sensemaking in organizations: The Mann Gulch disaster. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38(4), 628652.
WeickK. E., & SutcliffeK. M. (2011). Managing the unexpected: Resilient performance in an age of uncertainty (vol. 8). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
WoodsD. D., & ShattuckL. G. (2000). Distant supervision–local action given the potential for surprise. Cognition, Technology & Work, 2(4), 242245.
ZsambokC. E., & KleinG (Eds.) 1997). Naturalistic decision making. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Management & Organization
  • ISSN: 1833-3672
  • EISSN: 1839-3527
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-management-and-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 41 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 684 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.